4653.0 - Environment and Energy News, May 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/05/2002   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All



The Environment and Energy Statistics Section (EESS) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is a multi-disciplinary team involved in the research and analysis of environmental and energy issues based on ABS and non-ABS data.

Since its inception in June 1991, the Section's scope has progressively expanded and advances made into new areas of environment statistics. Notable achievements include:
  • The publication of popular time series on household data which covers people's concerns, attitudes and behaviour on water, energy, transport and waste.
  • Work accomplished in the area of environment protection expenditure (EPE) and environmental resource accounting.
  • The publication of a number of well received compendiums presenting current environmental data.
  • Advice to statistical agencies in other countries (e.g. China and the Philippines) on the establishment of various environmental statistics collections, including EPE, Household Surveys and Environmental Accounts.
  • Participation on national and international committees.

Staff in EESS have experience in researching and collating data from various sources for publication. Various products and services, such as consultancy and user funded data gathering, are available if other priorities permit. Data can be customised to suit specific requirements.


The ABS Environment Statistics Newsletter is produced on a half yearly basis. It features news and developments in relation to work done by EESS. If you would like to be placed on our free electronic mailing list, please contact Alec Davidson via email and leave your address details.

Alec Davidson
5N 342 Environment & Energy Statistics Section
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag No. 10, BELCONNEN ACT 2617

Tel: (02) 6252 7751
Fax: (02) 6252 5335


The next ABS Year Book is due to be released in January 2003 and will have an environment theme. There will be several feature articles including one dedicated to the International Year of Freshwater and another examining connections between various frameworks for assessing Ecologically Sustainable Development. Mini articles on relevant environmental issues will accompany many of the chapters including Geography and Climate, Population and Agriculture and Tourism.

Contact: Beth Edwards

The Land Management and Salinity Survey 2002 is linked to the 2001 Agricultural Census, which included two questions on salinity. This survey will collect more detailed information on salinity and salinity management.

The need to tackle salinity and water quality problems has been recognised by Commonwealth, State/Territory and local governments. These governments have supported the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. This plan outlines actions that can be taken by regional communities and land-holders in twenty-one priority regions. The Commonwealth and State/Territory governments have committed $1.4 billion to the National Action Plan over the next seven years.

The ABS is supporting the objectives of the National Action Plan through the Land Management and Salinity Survey 2002. This the first time the ABS has conducted this type of survey. Information will be collected on the activities already undertaken by farmers to manage or prevent salinity and the factors that influence land management decisions on farms. Data collected will provide a better understanding of the issues and where information and support is needed.

The survey has the support of a range of Commonwealth and State/Territory government agencies as well as the Australian Local Government Association.

The information collected will be published in a form that does not allow individual farms to be identified. Summary information will be available in a special ABS publication to be released in the first half of 2003. Information will also be available on this web site.

Contact: Adam Sincock
Email: adam.sincock@abs.gov.au

Over the next six months the EESS will be trialling a series of questions for possible inclusion on the 2003 Agricultural Survey. The focus of these questions will be on weeds, farm chemicals and water usage (including trading, source and re-use). These issues have been highlighted by users as key areas for data collection. There is potential to include additional topics in this process. If you have comments or other topics of interest please contact Paul Downey (details below).

Space on the Agricultural Survey form is limited but strong support from users resulted in several environmental questions being included on the 2001 Agricultural Census and/or 2002 Agricultural Survey. Specifically questions were included on:
  • salinity and salinity management
  • tree planting
  • fencing of degraded land and natural areas
  • tillage and stubble management practices
  • length of fallow
  • use of fertilisers, lime and dolomite
  • irrigation and irrigation scheduling tools
  • water trading and allocation
  • knowledge and use of Commonwealth Government programs

Preliminary data from the 2001 Agricultural Census is available now, with final data due out before the end of the year. The Agricultural Survey (which is sent to approximately 35,000 land-holders throughout Australia) will be dispatched in mid 2003 and preliminarily results will be available towards the end of that year.

Contact: Paul Downey
Email: paul.downey@abs.gov.au

The 8th edition of the Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (ABS Cat. No. 4602.0) is due for publication in November 2002. This year's publication will include:
  • a general overview of current issues relating to energy;
  • behavioural practice towards energy consumption and conservation measures;
  • awareness and application of Greenpower (solar, wind and water power) as an alternative source of energy; and
  • acquisition and use of household appliances.

Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices was first published in May 1992. It included data on the attitudes and behaviour of Australian householders towards the environment. The information in the publication can be used to assist with:
  • benchmarking community attitudes;
  • public policy formulation;
  • indicator based reporting (e.g. state of the environment reporting);
  • setting priorities;
  • education; and
  • program development.

Data are derived from the March supplement of the Monthly Population Survey. This survey covers most of the rural and urban areas of Australia's States and Territories. Where applicable, data collected on previous surveys are also presented for comparison.

Three groups of topics are rotated annually:
  • water use and conservation (including the use of environmentally friendly products) and visits to World Heritage Areas and National and State Parks,
  • waste management, habits of motor vehicle owners and transport use, and
  • energy use and conservation, greenpower and household appliances which are in this year's theme .

Contact: Apolonio Basilio
Email: apolonio.basilio@abs.gov.au

The Environment Management Survey (EMS) 2000-2001 collects physical and financial information on environment management in the manufacturing and mining industries. A similar collection was conducted for 1996-97 and released in Environment Protection Expenditure, Australia, 1995-96 and 1996-97 (ABS Cat. No. 4603.0). Environment protection is a significant and growing expense in the Australian economy. In 1996-97, for example, Australia spent over $8.6 billion on environment protection activities.

The 2000-2001 EMS provides measures of environment management activities as well as eco-efficiency indicators for the manufacturing and mining industries. Information on other industries could be collected in future surveys.

Environment management financial activity includes expenditure on solid waste management, liquid waste management, air emissions management, and other expenses such as noise control. Alongside the traditional areas of expenditure on environmental protection some new measurements on environment management systems will be available in the report and as a part of a series of unpublished data available on request.

Eco-efficiency goals aim to reduce materials/resources used and waste/pollution generated by industries in producing their goods and services. The new eco-efficiency component of the EMS enables physical and financial data to be combined to derive an indication of industries' performance in environmental management.

Types of available data will include physical and eco-efficiency indicators. For example:
  • Detailed water use,
  • Detailed land rehabilitation areas,
  • Eco-efficiency average savings for water, energy, materials and waste,
  • Implementation rates of environment plans,
  • Motivators to implementing environment plans,
  • Barriers to implementing environment strategies,
  • Businesses awareness of environment issues, and
  • Source of information on environment issues.

The publication, Environment Protection, Mining and Manufacturing Industries, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4603.0) is due out in late 2002.

Contact: Peter Meadows
Email: p.meadows@abs.gov.au

Processing of completed survey forms has begun on the 2000-01 collection. The survey collected information on expenditure and revenue by local government authorities related to their activities of environmental protection and natural resource management. The results will be presented in the publication Environment Expenditure, Local Government, 2000-01 (ABS Cat. No. 4611.0) which is due to be released mid-September 2002.

The previous year's survey found local government to be a major player in protecting the environment and in the management of natural resources in Australia. It was also found that these activities accounted for a significant part of local government operations. In summary, revenue from environmental protection ($2.3 billion) and natural resource management ($1.3 billion) contributed to 23% of councils' total revenue in 1999-2000. On the expenditure side, current and capital expenses for environmental protection were $1.9 billion and $600 million respectively, and for natural resource management they were $1.4 billion and $450 million respectively. These expenditures represented 22.7% of councils' total current expenses and 25.7% of councils' total capital expenditure.

The information from the ENRS is used by businesses, academics, governments and international organisations for a range of purposes. The information framework underlying the survey can be used in environmental reporting systems which are increasingly being developed for reasons of compliance, demonstration of environmental responsibility, management of environmental risks and efficient use of natural resources. In addition, the ABS is working closely with several councils to incorporate relevant linkages into their environmental accounting systems. The usefulness of the framework also includes possibilities to establish linkages to existing information systems such as State of the Environment Reporting (SoER).

The ABS is examining ways to further improve the collection of environmental data from councils in an effort to reduce reporting burden and concurrently increase the relevance and usefulness of the collected information. Two areas of emerging interest are outlined below.

The first is concerned with common resources, shared by two or more councils, such as waterways and forested areas. Information on the management of these common resources will help to understand and address environmental issues which cross these government boundaries.

The second is the need for information on a 'whole of government' approach to managing Australia's environment and natural resources. The ABS is investigating the possibility of expanding its Environment and Natural Resources Survey to include the State and Federal levels of government.

Contact: Adam Carmody

The ABS is exploring a proposal to collect information on environment expenditures by the Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments. The idea is attractive as new data could be combined with data currently available on local government activities. This would provide a comprehensive and integrated account of expenditure on environmental protection and resource management for all levels of Australian government. Comments relating to environmental spending outlined in the recent Commonwealth budget have highlighted the need to identify and categorise environmental expenditures. The development of this project will take time. Local government information is already collected and published in Environment Expenditure, Local Government, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4611.0).

The most recent estimates on the Commonwealth's expenditure on the environment are contained in the budget document, Towards a Sustainable Australia, The Commonwealth's Environment Expenditure, 2002-03. These estimates are not easily compared with other nations spending on environmental protection. The ABS is interested in developing a collection using the current Commonwealth and State/Territory financial reporting systems to minimise the need for additional reporting. One of the key objectives would be to harmonise the information to be collected with those provided by other environmental reporting frameworks, such as the State of the Environment Reporting (SoER).

Data on environment expenditure were collected from all three levels of governments for 1996-97 and earlier financial years. Data were originally collected automatically from governments but became unavailable after 1997. Information for these earlier years is provided in Environment Protection Expenditure, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4603.0). This shows that in 1996-97 Commonwealth and State governments were responsible for over $2 billion (or 25% of the $8.6 billion spent nationally on environment protection in that year) through projects such as the National Heritage Trust, waste water treatment facilities and rehabilitation of areas with degraded soil.

Comments and queries regarding the project can be made to:

Contact: Peter Meadows
Email: p.meadows@abs.gov.au

The second edition of "Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends" will be released during the latter half of this year. The main topics covered will be the environmental impacts of agriculture, forestry, mining and waste. Two other chapters will focus on measuring environmental values and comparing resource consumption between populations using the 'ecological footprint'.

The environmental consequences of changing trends in agriculture will be examined. Trends in land use, crops grown and water consumption over the last decade will be included. Responses to land degradation will be covered, with an emphasis on the 'Decade of Landcare'. There will be a special article with information and issues relating to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's).

There will be a focus on the economic, environmental and social values of forests. It will include data and analysis on carbon storage in Australia's forests, production of forest products such as timber, woodchips and firewood. Land clearing and other threats to Australia's forests will also be covered.

A topic on mining and the environment will contain detailed economic data and information on social factors such as tourism and employment. It will also include a detailed analysis of environmental impacts of mining such as land disturbance, air and water pollution, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. A section on environmental management will include data on environmental protection expenditure, rehabilitation bonds and environmental technologies used by the mining industry.

Treatment of waste will be addressed. This will contain data on quantities, disposal methods and methods to reduce waste flow in Australia. Re-use, recovery and recycling activity of householders and businesses and waste management costs will also be covered.

This edition of Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends will take a close look at a number of ways in which Australia's natural resources and environmental assets may be measured or valued - both in monetary and non-financial terms. It will cover techniques used to estimate environmental values in monetary terms, the incorporation of natural assets on the national balance sheet, environmental protection expenditure, non-financial environmental values, environmental accounting, the role of indicators and the concept of eco-efficiency.

Contact: Beth Edwards

This year saw the publication of the first edition of Measuring Australia's Progress (ABS Cat. No. 1370.0), an annual indicator based report developed by the ABS following extensive consultation. A selection of indicators measuring some of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of life in Australia provide the reader with some important insights into the nation's progress. The focus of the book is on the interrelationships between the economic, social and environmental aspects of life. While the report does not purport to measure every important aspect of progress, it does seek to inform and stimulate public debate and encourage all Australians to assess the bigger picture when contemplating progress in all its forms.

Contact: Beth Edwards